Saw the New York Philharmonic play Mozart and Brahms tonight. In Ann Arbor. Thanks, U of M. Chris and I sat up in the highest part of the balcony. Which is actually great–the sound condenses up there. And the people and the instruments can all be seen at once moving like the inside of a great machine. That’s the part I never understood I guess–that it’s fun to see an orchestra play. An orchestra doesn’t just sound, it moves. The Brahms was really great–his first symphony–the program quoted a contemporary of Brahms describing it as ‘unlovable’ (and then compared it to King Lear, so it wasn’t really a knock). It’s got all this manic energy and volume, but underneath it sounds sad.

What I loved even more though was seeing The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night by Propeller (an theater company out of England)–we saw them on Thursday and Friday. But I always love things with a story the most.


So, I am going to start with Language and Gender today. We read something by William Labov and something by Penelope Eckert. Both are interested in the ways in which gender/sex intersects with other variables (like social class, ethnicity, age, etc.)–both believe that “sex difference” in language cannot be wholly accounted for because of biological differences between the sexes. I think that the Labov was written after the Eckert, but I got the sense that hers was still the more forward-thinking, challenging. Or maybe that’s just because I understand hers better, and Labov spent a lot of time talking Eckert up (so I was primed to think that her ideas were great. Basically they are both asking whether or not the differences we see between men’s speech and women’s speech are driven by differences in the sexes or by some outside variable, or by some interplay between a variety of variables. I think that Labov would say that the context of language learning and, second, that women in second-highest status group tend to reject changes once they become recognized and stigmatized (i.e. they favor conservative forms with higher overt prestige). Eckert explains things differently. She introduced the problem of power, saying that the adoption or rejection of changes must be cased at least partially on the ways that the sexes gain power. In both studies, Eckert and Labov remark on the ‘principles’ that women typically drive linguistic change. Eckert explains this by saying that women can only acquire authority (not power, authority–though the distinction between the two is not entirely clear to me), through symbolic capital (through the creation of ‘personas’ through language use, dress, and social interaction). Therefore, women have to draw more heavily on language resources (and use them in more exaggerated ways) as they vie for influence. Eckert is careful to say that there are many, many variables that contribute to language variation and sex differences in language–but she calls for the recognition of the role of power as one of the important variables.

This is incomplete, but I guess I’ve moved on.

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